Teach your kids about nourishment
I want to preface this by saying the last thing I ever want to do is create a situation where anyone experiences more guilt – goodness knows mothers experience enough! So please take the following information in the way that it is intended: I simply want to help you bring more awareness to how you communicate about food, nutrition and your body weight, particularly around children.
If we want our children – especially daughters, as the pressure to be ‘‘slim’’ and ‘‘pretty’’ is far greater on girls and women – to have a positive relationship with food and their bodies, then becoming aware of our own relationship with food, nutrition and weight is a critical part of this. Sadly, we are kidding ourselves if we don’t think children, particularly girls, are absorbing what they see us do and Email your questions for Dr Libby to email@example.com. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered.
what they hear us say when it comes to food and our bodies.
I can’t encourage you enough to reflect on your own experience of body shape and size. Do you ever discuss dieting, weight loss, being skinny or slim, bikini bodies, fitting into a pair of jeans and so on in front of your children, or leave magazines lying around that discuss these issues? How often do you weigh yourself and feel disappointed by the number that appears on the scale? Does the number on the scales influence your behaviour – such as the way you treat yourself and interact with others, the foods you choose or the way you move your body? Do you refer to certain foods as good, bad, clean, healthy or unhealthy?
Our language around food matters – it is more accurate and helpful to describe foods as nutritious or nourishing (or not), and to base our food choices on nourishment. I’m not saying you have to watch every single word that comes out of your mouth, but I do want to bring awareness to the fact that your children will tend to model their relationship with food, nutrition and weight around your beliefs and behaviours.
Focus on health and nourishment, not on calories, fats or carbs. Talk about foods with regard to how they nourish your body rather than their effects on body shape and size. For example, explaining how nutritious foods such as vegetables are going to help give your body the nutrients it needs for clear thinking, clear skin and, of course, energy. Or sports performance. Relate nourishing food choices to what your children value.
Make it your mission to help your children understand that food is nourishment and fuel, it is neither good nor bad. Using food as a reward or offering it as comfort sets up a false notion that it can soothe strong emotions, so please do your absolute best to avoid this.
Helping your children to understand that it’s what we do every day that impacts our health not what we do sometimes, can also help to prevent a dieting mentality, rigidity in food choices or an ‘‘all or nothing’’ attitude when it comes to food. Remind them that food is nutritious (or not) and people are healthy (or not). And the more nutritious food they choose, the healthier they will usually be.
It’s important to remind children that food is nutritious (or not) and people are healthy (or not)